19 Feb STAYING SAFE ONLINE
Staying safe online should be a top concern for teenagers, but unfortunately that isn’t often true. They think that they’re safe because they’re at home or school and no one can touch them. They may make the mistake of thinking that no one can find them because they use a fake name or age, but that really isn’t true. The rise of popular social networking sites and blogs has made safety even more important and changed some of the old rules.
The first tip teens need to follow is to be careful about giving out their personal information, be it on Facebook or on one of their blogs. There’s no guarantee about who might be watching and reading. By constantly updating their page and telling others where they are or what they’re doing, they’re letting others know just how to find them.
Teens also need to be aware that anyone can pretend to be something they aren’t on the computer. That cute guy from the next town over, might actually be a 50 year old man using pictures of his nephew. Even telling someone where they’re going might not be of help, especially if the person they’re meeting lies about their age. That person can easily delete their profile and start over again on another victim.
Teens should also take the time to think long and hard before posting anything online, whether it’s a picture or a blog entry. There’s no guarantee that it’s only friends looking at those things; anyone can gain access to it. They should think how they’ll feel if one of their teachers or their parents stumbles across that posting and brought up the subject.
To stay safe from strangers, teens need to be really careful about the details they post. Using their last name, the team they play for, or their favorite restaurant or hang out location can help strangers identify them. Those people can easily hang out in the same location or go to one of the school games, just to get closer to that person. This can lead to serious problems and issues such as stalking or even rape.
Everyone should also follow the age requirements put in place by social networking sites. MySpace for example limits its members to fourteen years or older. Those that are too young need to move on and find another website. If a friend or relative finds someone listed that’s under age, they should notify the website right away.
Lastly, if a teen decides to meet someone in real life that they’ve been chatting to online, it’s absolutely mandatory to bring along a group of friends. Once the meeting happens, they should also be careful to avoid ending up alone with that person. Arrive in a group and leave in a group.